Saturday, December 8, 2012

25 Years Ago This Month: December 1987

Movie release schedules were not all that different 25 years ago. Studios saved their best films for the very end of the year, just like they do today, in order to be fresh in awards voters' minds. The result is that a lot of deserving films released earlier in the year are largely ignored. The December 1987 film releases garnered a combined total of 28 Academy Award nomination. If we add The Last Emperor, which had a limited release in late November followed by a wider December release, that makes 37 nominations spread over ten films.

In Empire of the Sun, Steven Spielberg returned to WWII, subject matter that has been at the crux of no fewer than six of the films he's directed. Christian Bale starred in the film about a boy from a wealthy British family living in Shanghai who finds himself in a Japanese internment camp after the occupation begins.

Spielberg is always hard at work as a producer and in December 1987 *batteries not included opened. It's a cloying little family science fiction film about extra-terrestrials visiting earth in the form of tiny flying robots who can fix broken mechanical devices.

Actor Danny DeVito made his feature directing debut with Throw Momma from the Train, in which he costarred with Billy Crystal, together hatching a plot to kill DeVito's overbearing mother, played by Anne Ramsay. It's the first of several dark comedies DeVito would direct. Crystal wants his ex-wife dead and, in a plot inspired by Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, they agree to help each other with the dirty deeds.

We're mostly all familiar with Oliver Stone's Wall Street, which earned Michael Douglas his Oscar for Best Actor, delivering the famous "greed is good" speech. The movie is still quoted by Wall Street guys, remaining a shrine for men who work in finance. These are people who missed the movie's lessons.

Cher won a Best Actress Oscar for her role in the romantic comedy Moonstruck alongside Nicolas Cage and Danny Aiello.

The great director John Huston delivered his final film, an adaptation of The Dead, the final story in James Joyce's Dubliners. It's a beautiful story and the perfect end to Joyce's collection of stories set in the Irish capital and Huston, directing his daughter Anjelica one final time, delivered a truly fantastic and long overlooked film.

Robin Williams earned his first Oscar nomination for Good Morning Vietnam, playing a controversial Vietnam War Army radio DJ, who grows despondent over the white-washed and censored news he is forced to read every day.

Who can forget Bill Cosby in Leonard Part 6, a stupid secret agent spy movie send-up that ranks on the bottom 100 of the IMDb?

Louis Malle's released his semi-autobiographical Au revoir les enfants, a story about a boy in a Catholic school in Nazi-occupied France.

Woody Allen released his second movie of the year, September, a drama that was very poorly received.

James L. Brooks' Broadcast News starred Holly Hunter, William Hurt, and Albert Brooks as TV news people.

Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell starred in Overboard, about a woman who suffers a head injury and amnesia and then learns to love the man who kidnaps her and fools her into thinking she's actually his wife and the mother of his four dirty and bratty sons.

Ironweed starred Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep about an alcoholic vagrant and an ill woman, also homeless, in Albany during the Great Depression.

Film Debuts
Christian Bale and Ben Stiller - both in Empire of the Sun.
Nathan Lane in Ironweed.
Anthony LaPaglia in Cold Steel.

Film Awards
The National Board of Review announced its awards on 15 December 1987. Their ten best films were as follows:
Empire of the Sun
The Last Emperor
Broadcast News
The Untouchables
Gaby - A True Story
Cry Freedom
Fatal Attraction
Hope and Glory
Wall Street
Full Metal Jacket

Their acting awards went to Michael Douglas, Holly Hunter, Lillian Gish, Olympia Dukakis, and Sean Connery. Steven Spielberg won the Best Director award.

The New York Film Critics Circle went a totally different way with their awards, giving best film, best director and best actress to James L. Brooks and Holly Hunter of Broadcast News. They gave other acting awards to Vanessa Redgrave; Morgan Freeman in Street Smart; and Jack Nicholson for The Witches of Eastwick, Ironweed, and Broadcast News.

Non-movie News
1st - Digging began for the tunnel linking England and France.
2nd - The Supreme Court heard the cast of Hustler Magazine vs. Falwell for a parody of the Reverend Jerry Falwell published in the magazine. The Court ruled 8-0 in favor of Hustler. The court case was dramatized in Milos Forman's 1996 movie The People vs. Larry Flynt.
8th - The First Intifada in Gaza began.
9th - Windows 2.0 was released. Those were the days.

10th - Gonzalo HiguaĆ­n - Argentine footballer who plays for Real Madrid
19th - Karim Benzema - French footballer who also plays for Real Madrid

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